The Garden - February 1, 2009
I came home from a long Saturday filled with a cafeteria packed with hormonally challenged tweens to find that Albert had spent the day digging up a substantial rectangle of the back yard. This January day had warmed to seventy degrees, a hint of spring coming soon. I came in the back gate and he proudly led me over to the plot. There was a soft pillow of turned earth. The grass was gone and the soil had doubled and was fluffy in volume from his work with the spade. The digging up of the plot, Albert’s removal of the grass, was a commitment. His secret surprise knowing I would come home exhausted. The tension and noise of the day lifted from me. As we stood there watching the beginning of the garden, like a gift, a mockingbird flew boldly down and began shopping for bugs or worms in the newly turned earth. He took our presence for granted as he saucily hopped about this way and that, cocking his head and flipping his tail.
The garden had suddenly become a symbol of our choice to join our lives; the mockingbird an auspicious sign for the project. He took me back to summer mornings when as a child I would wake to the male mockingbird’s entire repertoire of songs. His joyous song filled the dawn as he sang every song he knew while his little ones grew in their hickory tree nest outside my bedroom window.
In El Paso, we don’t see many mockingbirds. Starlings and doves, yes, the scourges of city life. Doves are as plentiful as pigeons in New York City and I cannot love them. Perhaps if there was a market for dove guano? They seem so dull and dense with their tiny beads for eyes. But the mockingbird returns my gaze with a lively, intelligent air as if there is a private joke between you. He has no fear of humans and takes it as his right to join you and share the moment. And we do.
The scent of the earth rises warm, strange and yet familiar. I pause a moment and ponder the sum of chemicals that may buried there. But we have let the soil rest for two and a half years and there will be compost, and mulch. And there will be mockingbirds. I watch him fly away and wonder where his nest is. It doesn’t matter. He knows where we are. He has found our garden and he will be back. He will bring his mate and later his young. Next year they will bring their young. The sun that had warmed the soil has dipped behind the house. It will be dark soon and we turn to go back into the house. We could talk about what to plant first, but we don’t. Not yet. We both savor the moment. Our decision to grow food together has become a reality. It is a beginning.